Monday, October 24, 2011

Dodgy Dress Code Dilemmas

I had to look up the spelling of "dilemma" for it's a word that has foxed me for some time. Well, the thing is that it hadn't foxed me, I always knew how to spell it. Every single time the need arose I'd whack it our effortlessly. And then I saw it written somewhere, no doubt by one of these proper writers, and realised that I'd been spelling it incorrectly all along. I'd been throwing in an "n" instead of the second "m". It's a good thing I don't make that kind of mistake elsewhere. Bumner though.

But it goes to show my newest mantra; what you don't know you don't know. It sounds like bollocks to many, but it's been accompanying me on a daily basis in recent weeks and it summarises that fact that many chaps, me included, can exist in a happy state of mind, not to be confused with an empire state of mind, in which we just assume we know things and do them correctly because we've never investigated whether they are correct and true.

I digress. To get back to my original point, the one I never started, I wanted to tell you a little story about a couple of dress code issues I've encountered lately, and to seek your advice, for you may know about these things.

My regular attire for work these days is pretty much what I'd wear at home. Not sarong mind, I mean jeans, trainers and casualish short. If I'm going to see a customer then I'll smarten myself up, with a suit and tie, though nowadays in London ties are becoming rarer than they used to be, even with a suit.

But, a couple of weeks ago I was due to go on a training course, just a half day thing. Being the dutiful employee I read the itinerary and figured out where to go beforehand, as well as checking what the dress code was.

"Business casual" read the dress code information. I stared at the screen for some time. Despite my stare the text didn't change, not one bit, not even a letter, into something that was less confusing to a man. Well, I say a man, I mean me. I figured that the term "business casual" to a woman would be quite straight forward. Just anything really, but not jeans and trainers and not a smart suit.

But for a man? WTF?

Clearly wearing a full business suit with a tie would be erring on the "too smart" side, but of course for a man "too smart" is never a problem in the way "too casual" might be. What if I wore a suit without a tie? It might still be too smart.

Okay, so then I considered the option of jeans with some leather shoes and shirt tucked in. That evening I even tried on some combinations but the shirt tucked in thing made me look like a wanker and the smart shoes with jeans bit made me feel like I was scratching my nails down a blackboard. Besides I only really have about three pairs of jeans that could be tagged as "smart" and none of them felt quite right.

Perhaps chinos and a shirt might do it, you're thinking? But chinos are really more for the summer months and it's quite chilly and autumnal here. Also I don't do that hooray Henry look very well, the American student, man at Gap look isn't my thing.

Hmmm.... what to do?

In the end I settled on the looking like a wanker look; the smart jeans, smart shoes and shirt tucked in. I took out the appropriates the night before, hung them out and even ironed the shirt.

The next morning I got ready. I strolled around my apartment for a bit, looking like a wanker. I couldn't get comfortable with the choice so switched to the suit with no tie option. Perhaps I'm old fashioned but a suit without a tie just doesn't hang right for me, it always feels as if the shirt collar is gaping and that I look like a pissed Uncle towards the end of a wedding reception. Still, I went with it.

I arrived at the course and met the others. The trainer was suited and booted as if he was about to do a modelling session for "Smart man in the city" magazine, in their special smart edition. That was okay for me, that's what these training types do.

There were only three others there. I remember all their names perfectly, that's one of the things we covered on the course, but I won't reveal them to you. There was one woman and she wore what can only think were her mother's clothes for when she goes to church. They were drab in the way that some women of a certain age think looks good. There was nothing wrong with them, nor was there anything right.

Then there were two chaps. One was German, so obviously lacking in any sense of sartorial style. He wore jeans, ironed with creases in them (for fuck's sake!!), some brown leather boots that would have been perfectly suitable for a long walk in the countryside and a black leather jacket that was seven sizes too small for him.

For the whole morning he kept the leather jacket on, leaving me to wonder if perhaps he had nothing on underneath or if the tightness of it was such that he'd need powder and a few friends to remove the thing.

The other guy was a middle aged Irishman and he did a good job of wearing the very British country casual look. Cord trousers, a thinly striped Oxford shirt and brogues seemed to give a decent illustration of the aforementioned "business casual".

It looked to me as if all of them, with the obvious exception of the trainer, had just worn what they felt like wearing. I even asked them if they'd been as confused as I was about the dress code. They mostly just looked at me as if I was a weirdo. It was okay, I'm used to that.

I sat through the morning's training, feeling overdressed but happy to be the one who was. I think I now know that "business casual" is really just wear what you fancy, unless you're German. Live and learn I say.

On top of all that, I've got a gig coming up with the covers band, quite a high profile sort of situ. It's a ball for some posh school, held at Wembley Stadium, though in one of the suites, not actually in the stadium, and there's a sit down dinner beforehand.

I got an email from one of the organisers the others day, asking for car registrations and generally stipulating in rather stern tones how we, the band, should behave and whatnot.

And the dress code. Which said: "Hollywood Glam".

Oh my giddy Aunt, what the hell is "Hollywood Glam"?


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Every Time....

...I watch this it makes me grin like an idiot. There's something so optimistic and joyous about it.

I challenge you, see if you can watch it without it putting a smile on your face!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Fuck Me....

You know how to make a Muslim name don't you? Simply take the letters K, R, Z and F, throw them in a bowl, then add some vowels and a few random consonants, remove a handful and the result is a name.

Most of my family on my Dad's side have names that follow the methodology, including my very own one.

I've got a cousin, fifteen times removed, twice added back and then tangentially attached via a flux capacitor, which is to say that she's pretty damn close in Lankan terms, who lives in London with her relatively new husband. She's actually the generation below, so calls me "Uncle", which galls me slightly, me being the rock 'n' roll geezerish cool Dad that I like to think of myself as. For the purpose of this post we'll call her "S".

And then, on the other side, the husband, truth be told a nice enough bloke, doesn't call me "Uncle" and that slightly annoys me. He's been in England a few years and clearly doesn't deem it necessary. I even whipped his disrespectful little brown arse at Carrom some months ago, twenty nine nil no less, and despite that he continues to address me on first name terms!

So anyhow, I have to tell you his name in order to tell you the story, but I'd be eternally grateful if you'd keep it to yourself, you'll understand why by the end. Yes, his name is "Falik". It's a normal sounding Muslim name in many ways and when my family met him we just accepted it and used it accordingly.

It was only some months later that one of us (me) realised there was a large dose of humour to be gained from it, what with it actually having a decent sexual meaning and all. You can imagine the joking that went on for quite a while, all behind his back of course. In fact, it continues.

The other day I was sitting round at my parents' place, just casually shooting the breeze with them as one does. My Dad, who is getting much better at a pretty good pace, was doing his usual thing of ignoring most things and making random comments related to the conversation before the one before. My Mum was doing her usual thing; that lethal mixture of questioning blended with narrating facts about all sorts of people, the questioning carefully designed to make you listen, unless you're my Dad.

"Oh S is pregnant by the way" she said.

"Ah right" I responded. It wasn't really a surprise to anyone, except perhaps S.

"Yes" continued my maternal unit.

"Fuckme and S came round the other day"

"Ah okay" said I, your narrator.

At this point an interesting thing happened. You know about probability trees, the way that events can take an infinite amount of possible outcomes, depending on the minutest of details? Well if you're a religious person or someone who believes in fate then you may think differently, but I favour the probability tree scenario.

And, soon after my Mum had called him "Fuckme" the conversation started to proceed along one path, that of the three of us not realising that that wasn't his actual name and just carrying on with our chat. But something nagged at me (I'm razor sharp like that) and I dragged us back to the intersection on the probability tree.

"Hold on, that's not his name is it, he's not called 'Fuckme' is he?"

"No he's not" said my Dad

"No, now what is his name again?" retorted the mother.

We sat there thinking for what seemed like minutes. It was in fact, minutes. I'm certain that what was going through our three heads was the same sort of thing, an extremely rare occurrence when my Dad's around, as you know. It was something like:

"What the hell is his name? It's something crammed full of sexual innuendo, but it's not 'Fuckme'?"

Then my Mum remembered.

"Ah God, it's not Fuckme, it's Falik, yes that's it"

"Of course" we all thought and said.

And continued talking rubbish.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

In Praise Of Lady Divine

LD, as we all like to call her, is five years old. Well, her blog is. And she deserves a whole post.

There are blogs in the Lankanosphere that come and go, there are neeky (a word I got from the girls) ones, Action Man ones, photographic ones and those that say "come and stroll through life my with me and see what goes on". A Glimpse of Lady Divine's World is the market leader in the latter group and I'll be bolloxed if I know why.

But it's my first call blog. It's the one that I check every day, just to see what's happening. How's our LD doing in her new job, has she been to have her eyes tested, her teeth checked or has she gone and lost her bloody keys again?

What about her Mum? She sounds scary, but scary in that Sri Lankan mother sort of way; hard to define and explain to anyone who hasn't experienced one first hand.

And that tattoo? We all thought her Mum would go mental about it but she seems to have taken it pretty well, all things considered.

There's poetry too, I won't link to any because I'm scared of poetry, it confuses and perplexes me. Put me in a room with just a poem for company and we end up backed into opposing corners staring at each other nervously.

And men!!! My God, I wish cupid would just get a move on and sort things for our LD, ideally getting a fellow that both LD and her Mother approve of, which may prove impossible come to think of it.

We know that LD misses her Dad tremendously. But, from what I know, I reckon he'd be mighty proud of her and her achievements so far. If she was my daughter I know that's how I'd feel.

I've never met her, but I thank LD for all the words and posts in the last five years and raise a glass of something to her and to the next five years.

Happy five year blogoversary LD!!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

On Decisiveness...

........or should that be "On Indecision"? I'm not sure.

I read a quote the other day from Brian Tracy, the less well known brother from International Rescue. It was a quote that struck a chord with me, enough of a chord for me to write it in my Barefoot notebook, on the newly created quote page. It goes like this:

"Decisiveness is a characteristic of high performing people. Almost any decision in better than no decision at all."

How true. Or is it? Which is ironic, I think.

You see, at first glance I fully agree with this statement. At a guess I'd say you do too. But then I go a bit deeper and think that "high performing" people, whatever they may be, aren't chaps or chapesses who go out and make quick and snappy decisions willy nilly. No, they're fellows who make quick decisions, but decisions that are also good ones, most of the time at least.

A fellow who makes quick decisions all the time but who makes bad ones won't usually be seen as a high performer. Unless he's a politician of course, when all logic goes flying out of the window.

Is a quick bad decision better than no decision at all?

It becomes a hall of mirrors type of question. It's perfectly legitimate and allowed by God and his cronies to make a decision not to decide, which counts as a decision. Dithering and faffing about aren't generally good. However, a chap who says "I'm going to gather some more information before I make my decision" or "I'm going to wait until next Tuesday, to let the facts mull over in my mind until then" is, in many ways, being far more decisive than the one who decides in half a nanosecond that he's going to invest all his money in Lalith Kotelawala's latest venture.

What do you think?

Is any decision better than no decision, or is a decision not to decide a decision anyhow?

Or are you like me on this one, a bit undecided?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

On Dead People

Hello, long time no post. Just saying.

I was driving along in the RD mobile the other day and listening to a phone in show on the radio (who said men can't multi task eh?).

The main topic on the show was to do with Michael Jackson, as the trial of his Doctor was beginning and big in the news. Rather, the main topic was a tangent of the MJ Doctor trial, triggered by something that the Sun, that bastion of all Great British journalism, had published that morning; a photograph of Michael Jackson lying in the hospital as dead as a Dodo.

Apparently some of the British tabloids had made the decision to publish the picture and some had presumably decided against doing so. There was much discussion on the radio about the wisdom, ethics and respect (or lack of) involved in this publication and I listened with interest, it being something I've pondered on for many a moon.

Being brought up in the UK with Sri Lankan parents means that I sometimes find myself with mixed mindsets. One example is the way in which I thought the word "advertisement" should be pronounced. I spent probably close to ten years thinking that it was "add ver tizzment" until I discovered that it's actually "ad vurr tis ment" and promptly changed my approach. Of course Michael Meyler and coves like that would no doubt argue that it matters not, that they're both correct, just different ways of saying it. All well and good but the aforementioned coves probably didn't have their ten year old mates taking the piss out of them.

Another example is in the approach to dead bodies. The traditional UK mindset is that a corpse is rarely seen by the average person. I must admit that I don't know if that's a mindset shared by the rest of the West, though I reckon it probably is.

There are people here who deal with the dead; funeral directors, medics and close relatives at funerals. For the rest of the populace dead bodies are not part of our everyday existence, which is mostly why the publication of the picture was causing such an uproar.

Yet in Sri Lanka and the East dead bodies are much more a part of everyday life. Open a Lankan newspaper and it's a common occurrence to see a photo or two of a mourning family around the open casket of a sadly dead relative. During the conflict it was quite common to see pictures of dead people. Was that to do with the conflict, with death being so much more a part of everyday life that people became slightly immune to the concept?

Or was it because that's how things are there?

As I listened to the radio most of the callers shared a theme; that they weren't upset or offended by the photographs, but that it was highly insensitive and disrespectful to Michael Jackson's friends and family to publish them. Which is kind of where my opinion sits too.

I'm not in the least bit upset or offended by the sight of a body, but I consider it disrespectful to the person's relatives to show one. But, in Sri Lanka, I genuinely don't know if the relatives concerned are bothered about it.

Is the sight of a body, of grieving relatives and an open casket such an everyday thing that people just become immune and desensitised to it?

Or are people in the West too protected and shielded from the one thing that awaits every one of us?

Or is it none of the above?

What do you think?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Loneliness Of The Drummer

I've got a whole half baked theory about the different types of personalities that play different instruments and, as it's only really half baked, I won't bore you with the finer details. But everyone I've shared it with agrees with me; there are definitley very specific personalities attracted to each instrument.

And, by "each instrument", I mean each proper instrument; drums, bass, lead guitar and vocals. Forget about all those keyboards, wind and what have you. They're decoration, fitting in in between the others. Is it okay to say "in" twice like that anyhow?

The thing is, there are undoubtedly traits that are shared by pretty much all of the players of each of the four instruments. Where Dave Grohl fits into this theory I know not. But I care, for I care about everything to do with Sir Dave.

Us drummers are the quiet responsibility driven fellows in the band. We want to be part of a team yet need a role with a semblance of individuality. Most of us put in a shed load of hard work and effort into our craft. We put in hours and hours of practice, working on the little things others would find simply stupid and unnecessary. If you're a singer reading this you'll be lost now, but that's okay. The rest of us are used to singers getting lost while reading the words.

One of my first teachers used to tell me that the drummer's job was to make the band sound good. It might seem an arrogant thing to say, but he didn't mean it in that way. It's more about the fact that a good drummer does make a great band, but almost never gets the credit. But usually that doesn't matter, we're not that fussed about credit and applause and all that. We leave that for the lead singers and lead guitarists, that's their thing.

If a band does a gig with a great drummer the audience usually thinks that the band was great. If the drummer is poor then usually the crowd thinks the drummer was poor, that's how it works.

And usually we're okay with that.


There I was on Thursday evening. The covers band were doing a gig and all was going swimmingly. The pub wasn't as packed to the rafters as usual but that was to be entirely expected because of the entirely unexpectedly sunny weather we had, as had been forecast. Few people want to go to a hot and sticky pub to see a band when things get like they did here last week.

But, it was all good. We got them all dancing, there was whooping and hollerin' galore, there was that dodgy middle aged dancing that I seem to see a lot of and there were a good dollop of mistakes made by us on stage, largely unnoticed by the audience.

Still, we rocked. And at the end of the first set left the stage to mingle with the common people and soak up the adulation.

I caught sight of B, our lead guitarist in conversation with a friendly looking fellow whom I didn't know. I ambled over expecting some praise, perhaps a little chat about how the stranger loved that song we played, maybe asking how long we've been together or about my own influences as a drummer. It's rock 'n' roll and things can go crazy, as I thought in the middle of one song when I glanced over while everyone was dancing and saw our sound man sitting at the desk reading his newspaper.

B introduced me to the chap. He was called Roger. He probably still is for that matter. In a rare display of sense, maturity and willpower I resisted any attempt at an Airplane style joke using his name. Oh yes, I can do the serious stuff too. Introduction done, B left Roger and myself alone and went off to sign a girl's breasts. Or order some coleslaw, I forget exactly which it was.

Roger turned to me, I looked at him. I don't mind admitting to you, dear reader, that I felt slightly smug. It had been a good first set after all. I'd grooved and the band was tight and on it. There was a pause. I wondered what Roger would say. I could sense his indecision, but finally he made his mind up and said

"So RD, did you catch any of the first set then?"

Fucking wanker.

He turned out to be quite a nice bloke.

But still. I mean. For fuck's sake. There are limits, even for the drummer.